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SHANNONDALE FARM, INC., Plaintiff, v. TRACI MORGAN and DENISE COLE, Defendants.

Fulton County

No. 2013 CV 239970

 

Superior Court of Fulton County

 

COMPLAINT

COMES NOW Shannondale Farm. Inc. (“Shannondale” OR “Shannondale Farm”) and
files this, its Complaint for damages and equitable relief. and shows this Court as follows:

 

JURISDICTlON AND VENUE

1.

Plaintiff Shannondale Farm, Inc. is a Georgia Corporation with its principal place of
business in Fulton County, Georgia.

2.

Defendant Traci Morgan (“Morgan”) is a resident of Georgia who may be served at her residence …

3.

Defendant Denise Cole (”Cole”) is a resident of Georgia who may be served at her
residence of …

4.

Both jurisdiction and venue are proper in this Court.

 

FACTS RELEVANT TO ALL CLAIMS

5.
David Shannon and Julie Shannon (the “Shannons”) own and run Shannondale Farm at
which they provide expert care, boarding, and training for horses.
6.
Julie Shannon is an expert in her field of dressage with 25 years of experience, and she
regularly hosts high-profile events in this field.
7.
The Shannons have been running Shannondale Farm for over 16 years and have an
excellent record of care for their horses. Notably, in all their years of caring for horses, they
have had zero instances of colic, which is the leading cause of premature death in domestic
horses.
8.
Morgan boarded her horse at Shannondale Farm from March 2012 until early August,
2013, without any complaints.

9.
In fact, until she withdrew her horse from Shannondale Farm, Morgan was friends with
the Shannons. Morgan would invite them to social events and contact them on a regular basis.
10.
Morgan also regularly worked with Julie Shannon for dressage training.
11.

As time passed, Morgan became unable to consistently pay her boarding bills at
Shannondale Farm.
12.
The Shannons, instead of forcing Morgan to move her horse, allowed Morgan to barter
light chores around Shannondale Farm in exchange for discounts on Morgan’s boarding bill.
Morgan completed tasks such as tack cleaning, pasture clean-up, and painting jumps around
Shannondale Farm.
13.
This barter arrangement began in or around November of 2012.
14.
Even though Morgan was having difficulties paying for her horse’s boarding, Morgan
decided to take her horse on a trip to Florida for a saddle fitting.
15.
Morgan planned this trip for July 2013.
16.
Morgan informed Shannondale Farm and Julie Shannon that Morgan and her horse would
be gone for four days in order to complete this trip.

17.

Based on this information, Shannondale Farm provided Morgan with four to five days of
feed for the horse.
18.
While Morgan was in Florida with her horse, she sent multiple text messages to Julie Shannon.

19.
Morgan told Julie Shannon that Morgan was extending the trip for several days and that
she was running out of feed for the horse.
20.
Morgan also stated that the horse was losing weight while on the trip.
21.
Besides Morgan’s failure to request enough feed for the horse,

Morgan took several additional actions which caused her horse to lose weight while on the trip.
22.
These actions include hauling the horse in a fiberglass trailer for six to eight hours at a
time in the heat of July; ordering numerous medical and dental procedures for the horse during
the short period of time they were in Florida, including acupuncture, dentistry, a full veterinary
examination, and a saddle fitting; and bringing the horse to an unfamiliar location under high
stress.

23.
Morgan took these actions solely on her own accord, and not on the advice of Shannondale Farm.

24.
When Morgan returned from her trip, she complained to the Shannons about the sudden
loss of weight on her horse.
25.
Morgan demanded that Plaintiff put weight back on the horse by immediately doubling

the amount of feed provided to the horse.
26.
The Shannons, having years of experience caring for horses, knew that a large or sudden
increase in food can cause the horse to colic or founder, both of which are serious health
conditions for horses.
27.
Because of the serious health risk, the Shannons explained to Morgan that Plaintiff could
not immediately double the feed provided to the horse and that in order to safely put weight
back on the horse, it would have to be a gradual process.
28.

Refusing to believe the Shannons, Morgan withdrew her horse from boarding at
Shannondale Farm on August 6, 2013.
29.
Almost immediately, Morgan began making statements to members of the equestrian
communities in Alpharetta and Atlanta that Shannondale Farm willfully harmed her horse and
caused it to lose 300 pounds.

30.
Morgan has made multiple defamatory statements against Plaintiff by written publication and verbal statement.
31.
Morgan’s friend Denise Cole (the other named Defendant in this case) began making defamatory statements

against Plaintiff around this same time period.

32.
Cole buys and sells horses, and is a competitor of Shannondale Farms.
33.
In fact, Cole lives at and operates a farm about two miles away from Shannondale Farm,
on the same street.
34.
Like Morgan, Cole was once very friendly with Julie Shannon and Dave Shannon.
35.
Cole and Julie Shannon showed horses together from 2006 to 2008.
36.
Sometime in 2008, Plaintiff and the Shannons ended their contact with Cole because of
damaging statements and actions taken by Cole against Shannondale Farm.
37.
More recently, when Morgan began making defamatory statements about Plaintiff, Cole
began to make similar statements and to share Morgan’s statements with the equestrian
community.
38.
Plaintiff and the Shannons have explained to Morgan, verbally and via letter, why Plaintiff is not at

fault for the weight loss of Morgan’s horse.
39.
Plaintiff has also sent cease and desist letters to both Morgan and Cole, instructing them
that their statements were false. defamatory. and harmful to Plaintiff. A true and correct copy of
the letter to Morgan is attached hereto as Exhibit  “A.” and a true and correct copy of the letter to
Cole is attached hereto as Exhibit “B.”

40.
Both Morgan and Cole have continued to make defamatory statements despite receiving
the cease and desist letters.

COUNT I: SLANDER AGAINST DEFENDANT MORGAN

41.
Plaintiff incorporates all preceding paragraphs as if fully set forth herein.
42.
On or around September 6, 2013, Morgan’s counsel sent a letter to Plaintiff and the
Shannons by FedEx. This letter was a demand for payment for amounts Morgan falsely claims

are owed to her by Shannondale Farm.
43.
Plaintiff received the letter on the following day, on or around September 7, 2013.
44.
On or around September 8, 2013, Morgan arrived on the premises of Shannondale Farm
while Plaintiff and the Shannons were hosting a clinic, at which an International Dressage Judge
and many other distinguished members of the equestrian community were present.

45.

Morgan attempted to attend the clinic; however, she intentionally entered the property
through a side entrance, sat down at the far end to avoid being detected, and did not pay the
required entrance fee.
46.
Morgan-who was within earshot of other members of the equestrian community who
were attending the clinic-advised Julie Shannon that Plaintiff and the Shannons had been
“served” with legal papers.
47.
Morgan loudly, so as to be heard by those around, told Julie Shannon that  Morgan’s
attorney “said I could be here” because the event was a public function. Morgan repeated this
statement numerous times.
48.
Morgan also repeatedly stated loudly, so as to be heard by those around, that Morgan’s

horse was “ruined” at Shannondale Farm.
49.
These declarations were made in such a way that they were intended to be overheard by
other individuals present at the clinic, who were professionals and amateurs in the equestrian
community.
50.
Julie Shannon then requested that Morgan pay the entrance fee to audit the clinic like all

other auditors were required to do, otherwise, Morgan would be required to exit the premises.

51.
Morgan’s words falsely implied that she had filed a lawsuit against Plaintiff and the
Shannon’s related to the care of her horse. and that Plaintiff ruined Morgan’s horse. Neither
allegation is true.

52.
Morgan’s statements were falsely and maliciously made, in reference to Plaintiff’s trade
or profession, and were calculated to injure Plaintiff.
53.
Pursuant to O.C.G.A. §51-5-4, damage is inferred due to Morgan’s false and malicious
statements against Plaintiff in reference to their trade or profession.

COUNT II: LIBEL AGAINST DEFENDANT MORGAN

54.
Plaintiff incorporates all preceding paragraphs as if fully set forth herein.

55.
After the event referenced in Count I, Plaintiff hired counsel and timely responded to the
correspondence from Morgan’s attorney. In this correspondence, Plaintiff informed Morgan that
her actions were defamatory, and demanded that she cease and desist such conduct.
56.
Plaintiff sent Morgan (via her counsel) notice that her conduct was defamatory on
September 13, 2013, and again on September 20, 2013.
57.

After receiving these letters, Morgan continued to make malicious and false statements against Plaintiff.

58.
On September 24, 2013, an agent from the Georgia Department of Agriculture (the
“Department”) made a surprise visit to Shannondale Farm for an inspection.

59.
Until the date of the surprise inspection, Plaintiff had no knowledge of the complaint with
the Department and had no knowledge of who made the complaint. Plaintiff later obtained the
complaint form and the results of the inspection under an Open Records Act Request. A true and
correct copy of the Equine Section Complaint Report Form is attached hereto as Exhibit “C.” A
true and correct copy of the Equine Inspection Report is attached hereto as Exhibit ‘”D.”
60.
As stated on the Equine Section Complaint Report Form, the complaint was reported by
Traci Morgan on September 9, 2013. At no time after Morgan’s receipt of the letters did she
ever contact the Department to withdraw her complaint.
61.

In this complaint, Morgan claimed that Plaintiff was operating with a possibly expired
license, was not providing adequate care to horses, and failed to update Coggins tests on its
horses.
62.
The Coggins test is a test for equine infectious anemia, a severe disease for horses. Most
horse shows and events require a negative Coggins test, and it is usually required for interstate

and international travel as well. Needless to say, it is highly important for equine boarding facilities

to maintain up-to-date Coggins tests.

63.
Plaintiff was forced to halt business for the inspection on September 24. Even more
damaging, those individuals who were at Shannondale Farm or who may have even passed by
Shannondale Farm would have seen an inspection in process.

64.
The Department found no evidence of any wrongdoing by Plaintiff. In fact, the report
states that the inspector “found no violations … and all Horses appeared to be receiving humane
care.” (See Ex. D)
65.
Morgan’s statements to the Department were false and malicious. These statements were
made to injure Plaintiff in its profession by making charges against Plaintiffs trade or
profession, specifically stating that Plaintiff was unlawfully boarding horses and was not
providing adequate care to their horses.
66.
Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 51-5-4, damage is inferred due to Morgan’s false and malicious
statements against Plaintiff in reference to their trade or profession.

 

COUNT III: SLANDER AGAINST DEFENDANT MORGAN

67.
Plaintiff incorporates all preceding paragraphs as if fully set forth herein.
68.
Soon after the surprise inspection referenced in Count II, Morgan again made false and

In early October. Julie Shannon volunteered for the Region 3 Dressage Championships at
the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers, Georgia.
70.
Morgan attended the same event on or around October 12. 2013, even though Morgan

was not participating in the event herself.
71.
Morgan brought a video camera with her to the event.
72.
While she was there, Morgan began showing videos or photographs on her video camera
to other attendees.
73.
Morgan cornered several individuals whom she knew, some of whom knew Julie
Shannon as well and were familiar with Shannondale Farm.
74.
Morgan, while showing the photographs or videos, falsely and maliciously informed
these individuals that Morgan’s horse was “starved” and stating that this occurred while the
horse was at Shannondale Farm.
75.
Morgan also informed these individuals that her horse now weighs three hundred pounds
more than what it weighed at Shannondale Farm.
76.

Presumably, Morgan still has possession of the videos and photographs that were shown to the attendees at this event.
77.
Also on October 12 and at the same event, Morgan expressed the same false and
malicious accusations-that Shannondale Farm .. “starved” her horse and that it now weighs three
hundred pounds more than when it was Shannondale-loudly within the crowd of attendees and

within earshot of multiple individuals, intending to publish her statement to any who could hear.
78.
Morgan’s confrontations, allegations, and announcements at the Region 3 Dressage
Championships were made against Plaintiff in reference to its trade or profession, and they were
made specifically in front of members of the equestrian community to injure Plaintiff in its trade
or profession.
79.
Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 51-5-4, damage is inferred due to Morgan’s false and malicious
statements against Plaintiff in reference to its trade or profession.

COUNT IV: SLANDER AGAINST DEFENDANT MORGAN

 

80.
Plaintiff incorporates all preceding paragraphs as if fully set forth herein.
81.
Morgan has also been spreading her false and malicious allegations against Plaintiff
through personal conversation or some other mode of private communication.
82.
On or before October 1, 2013, Morgan told Cole these same false allegations.
After hearing Morgan’s false allegations, Cole made a public posting on her Facebook
profile, stating “My horse … [was] boarded at Shannondale Farm … I did not check on my

mare for 3 weeks bc I trusted the owner and resident trainer … Traci Morgans [sic 1 ].. hungry
horse photos to be posted soon ! ! ! !”

84.
This posting shows Morgan relayed her false and malicious allegations to Cole, whether
by personal conversation or otherwise.
85.
Morgan’s acts, in communicating her false and malicious allegations against Plaintiff to
Cole were made against Plaintiff in reference to its trade or profession and were made with
intent to injure Plaintiff in its trade or profession.
86.
Plaintiff informed Morgan, via her counsel, that she must preserve and safeguard
evidence of any communications between her and Cole. This demand was made by letter dated
October 18, 2013.
87.
Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 51-5-4, damage is inferred due to Morgan’s false and malicious
statements against Plaintiff in reference to its trade or profession.

COUNT V: LIBEL AGAINST DEFENDANT MORGAN

88.
Plaintiff incorporates all preceding paragraphs as if fully set forth herein.
89.
On or before October 25, 2013. Morgan contacted Dr. Ken Marcella, the veterinarian
whom Morgan had hired to care for her horse.

90.

Morgan requested that Dr. Marcella provide her with a written statement regarding the

care of Morgan’s horse at Shannondale Farm, and the events occurring after Morgan’s trip to

Florida in July 2013.

91.

Dr. Marcella complied-as he would with any client- with Morgan’s request and

provided her a written statement regarding his recollection of the events and the care for

Morgan’s horse.

92.

Morgan, after review, was unsatisfied with Dr. Marcella’s statement.

93.

Because the statement did not say what Morgan wanted it to say, Morgan sent Dr.

Marcella a list of changes that she wanted Dr. Marcella to make to Dr. Marcella’s own statement

of events.

94.

In doing so, Morgan published false and malicious allegations to Dr. Marcella, alleging
Plaintiff of the same or similar abuse and unprofessional conduct that Morgan has previously communicated

with others.

95.
Morgan knows that Dr. Marcella often works with Plaintiff to treat the horses boarded at Shannondale Farm.

96.
Morgan also knows that Dr. Marcella works with many members of the equestrian communities in Alpharetta,

Atlanta, and the surrounding areas.
97.
Morgan’s false and malicious publication to Dr. Marcella injures Plaintiffs reputation
and exposes Plaintiff to public contempt, hatred, or ridicule.
98.
Morgan’s statements are injurious to Plaintiff in its trade and business, and therefore
constitute libel per se. Zarach v. Atlanta Claims Ass’n, 231 Ga. App. 685, 688 ( 1998).
99.
Because Morgan’s statements constitute libel per se, damage is inferred and special
damages need not be shown. Smith v. Stewart, 291 Ga. App. 86, 96 (2008).

 

COUNT VI: LIBEL AGAINST DEFENDANT MORGAN

100.
Plaintiff incorporates all preceding paragraphs as if fully set forth herein.
101.
On or about October 22, 2013, Morgan posted a photograph and comment publicly to her
Facebook page.

102.
The photograph showed a split screen-both were images of a brown or chestnut colored
horse.

103.
Above the photograph, Morgan wrote, “Creola not fed and expensive board vs [sic]
Creola fed and less expensive board … hum [sic] … no brainer now. Huge difference in weight,
muscling, coat, and temperament. Change is a good thing!”
104.
Because of Morgan’s previous publications and statements to others, the people reading
the post would have reasonably understood that Morgan is making a reference to Shannondale
Farm. See Smith v. Stewart. 291 Ga. App. 86, 92 (2008); Davis v. Macon Tel. Pub. Co., 93 Ga.
App. 633, 634 ( 1956).
105.
Based on Morgan’s photographs and statement in her post, Morgan falsely implies once
again that Shannondale Farm mistreated or starved her horse.
106.
Morgan’s post was published to her Facebook friends, at least some of whom are
members of the equestrian community. Morgan’s post can also be seen by anyone who visits her
page on Facebook.
107.
Morgan’s statements in her post were false and malicious.
108.
Morgan’s post is libel per se because it is injurious to Plaintiff in its trade or profession,
and because Morgan’s statements allege that Plaintiff committed the crime of animal abuse.
Zaraclz v. Atlanta Claims Ass ’11, 231 Ga. App. 685, 688 ( 1998).
109.
Because Morgan’s statements constitute libel per se, damage is inferred and special
damages need not be shown. Stnith v. Stewart, 291 Ga. App. 86, 96 (2008).

COUNT VII: LIBEL AGAINST DEFENDANT MORGAN

110.
Plaintiff incorporates all preceding paragraphs as if fully set forth herein.
111.
On or about October 23, 2013, Morgan made a separate post on her Facebook profile
including more photos and more text.
112.
This post shows three pictures of a brown horse.
113.
Above the photos, Morgan writes, ”To complete the story … Creola before involuntary
Jenny Craig program … THEN Creola upon completing JC program … then Creola back to primo

condition … WOW .. .3 scoops a day and free choice hay. Thanks doc Marcella for tracking her progress!

And thanks Michelle Gibson for the awesome work with my girl!”

114.
In the text of the post listed above Morgan .. tags” Michelle Gibson, meaning that
individual was immediately notified of Morgan’s post, and the post potentially appeared on that
individual’s Facebook profile.
115.
Once again. even though Morgan does not mention Plaintiff by name, the people reading
the post would have reasonably understood that Morgan was referring to Plaintiff. See Snzith v.Stewan. 291

Ga. App. 86, 92 (2008); Davis v. A1ac:on Tel. Pub. Co., 93 Ga. App. 633, 634 (1956).
116.
The photos, in combination with the text, imply that Shannondale Farm mistreated or
starved her horse.
117.
Additionally, by mentioning Dr. Marcella’s name in the post and stating that he was
“tracking [the horse’s] progress,” Morgan implies that Dr. Marcella agrees with Morgan and that
Dr. Marcella is tracking progress from the horse’s falsely alleged mistreatment at Shannondale
Farm.
118.
Morgan continues to discuss her allegations in the comments of her post.

Several people, including Defendant Denise Cole, made comments on Morgan’s post.
120.
In one exchange of comments, a commenter states, “Way too kind calling it a Jenny
Craig program. More like concentration camp.” Morgan responds to this misguided (at best) attempt at humor

by encouraging the commenter, stating “I was trying to be subtle. We wouldn’t want to upset the the farm owners and

their attorneys even more! The letters have been quite colorful. .. kind of like your dress, Linda. ;)”
121.
A friend of Traci Morgan’s then states. ‘”They need to go on vacation to get over it.
Auschwitz would be a good place for them to try:) .. On November 7, 2013. Morgan agrees with this

commenter and replies, ‘”Amen!!!” In doing so, Morgan supports and encourages the egregious and

repugnant comparisons between Plaintiff and Nazi S S Officers.
122.
Morgan’s sarcasm and her encouragement to the previous commenters show that she
does in fact intend to upset Plaintiff and the Shannons, and that she is well aware of Plaintiff’s
cease and desist letter dated October 18, 2013. In spite of Plaintiff’s cease and desist letter,
Morgan chose to make this and other posts to her Facebook wall in order to defame Plaintiff.
123.
Morgan’s post was published to her Facebook friends, at least some of whom are
members of the equestrian community. Morgan’s post can also be seen by anyone who visits her
Facebook page.
124.
In her post, Morgan made false and malicious statements against Plaintiff.
125.
Morgan’s post is libel per se because it is injurious to Plaintiff in its trade or profession,
and because Morgan’s statements allege that Plaintiff committed the crime of animal abuse.
Zarach v. Atlanta Clailns Ass ‘n, 231 Ga. App. 685, 688 ( 1998).
126.
Because Morgan’s statements constitute libel per se, damage is inferred and special
damages need not be shown. Sntitlz v. Stel-vart, 291 Ga. App. 86, 96 (2008).

COUNT VIII: LIBEL AGAINST DEFENDANT COLE

127.

Plaintiff incorporates all preceding paragraphs as if fully set forth herein.
128.
In early October, Cole made a post on her Facebook profile and made several comments
on this post, making false and malicious allegations that Plaintiff starved or mistreated Cole’s
horse. While the initial post does not mention Plaintiff by name, the comments Cole makes on
her post (which are visible underneath the post) indicate that Cole was referring to Plaintiff.
Cole’s post and related comments are described below.
129.
On or about October 1, 2013, Cole posted a photograph and accompanying text to her
own Facebook profile, stating, “Where not to board a horse!!!! Any guesses?”
130.
While Cole does not specifically mention Plaintiff by name in her post, the people
reading the post would have reasonably understood that Cole was referring to Plaintiff by context
within the comment section of the post. See Smith v. Stewart, 291 Ga. App. 86, 92 (2008); Davis
v. !vi aeon Tel. Pub. Co., 93 Ga. App. 633, 634 ( 1956).
131.
Cole and her horse were frequent visitors to Shannondale Farm several years ago;
however, Cole never signed a boarding contract with Plaintiff and never signed a training
contract with Julie Shannon.
132.
Cole’s post could be seen by her Facebook friends and others (depending on her
Facebook privacy settings. Cole’s posts may be viewed by a broader audience than just Cole’s
Facebook friends).
133.
Cole’s post contained false and malicious statements against Plaintiff.
134.
On or about October 1, 2013, Cole posted a comment to the above-mentioned post on her
Facebook profile.
135.
In this comment. she replies to other commenters and anyone else who has read her post,
stating, “You will read about it on Rate my horsepro [sic] soon enough!!!!”
136.
Again, while Cole does not mention Plaintiff by name, the people reading this comment
would have reasonably understood that Cole was referring to Plaintiff by the context in the
remainder of the comment section on this specific post. See Stnith v. Stewart, 291 Ga. App. 86,
92 (2008); Davis v. Nlacon Tel. Pub. Co., 93 Ga. App. 633, 634 (1956).
137.
In this comment. Cole is referring to a website at horseauthority.co.

138.
This website is a forum that posts lawsuits against professionals that deal with horses – including boarders and trainers.
This website is known throughout the equestrian community and has drastically reduced business for those
parties named on the website in the past.
139.
By referring to horseauthority.co, Cole implies that there was or will be a
lawsuit pending against Plaintiff, and therefore, that Plaintiff committed actionable or unlawful
acts in its trade or profession.
140.
Cole’s statements in her comment were false and malicious.
141.
On or about October 1, 2013, on the same post described above, Cole made another
comment with the single word “malnutrition.”
142.
While Cole does not mention Plaintiff by name, the people reading her comment would
have reasonably understood that it refers to Plaintiff by the context in the remainder of the
comment section on this specific post. See Smith v. Stewart, 291 Ga. App. 86, 92 (2008); Davis
v. Macon Tel. Pub. Co., 93 Ga. App. 633, 634 ( 1956).
143.
Cole is, in this comment, referring to the picture that was posted with the text described
above.
144.
Cole is also implying that the horse in that picture was malnourished under Plaintiff’s care.
145.
Cole’s comment contained false and malicious statements against Plaintiff.
146.
On or about October l, 2013, in yet another comment on the same post, Cole states,
.. Both barns that Suzanne Mott Dansby and I boarded at are located right here in Alpharetta … I
guess some would call the 30004 zip code stables the new Poland!!”
147.
Once again, this misguided attempt at humor is hugely offensive to Plaintiff and, likely,
anyone else who could see Cole’s post and accompanying comments.
148.
While Cole does not mention Plaintiff by name, the people reading this comment would
have reasonably understood it to refer to Plaintiff by the context in the remainder of the comment
section on this specific post. See S1nith v. Stewart, 291 Ga. App. 86, 92 (2008); Davis v. Nlacon
Tel. Pub. Co., 93 Ga. App. 633, 634 (1956).
149.
This comment falsely implies that Plaintiff malnourished, abused, and mistreated Cole’s horse.
150.
Cole’s comment contained false and malicious statements against Plaintiff.

151.
On or about October 1, 2013, Cole made another comment to the above-mentioned post.
152.
In this comment, Cole states. “My horse … [was] boarded at Shannondale Farm … I did
not check on my mare for 3 weeks bc I trusted the owner and resident trainer… Traci Morgans
[sic] … hungry horse photos to be posted soon ! ! ! !”
153.
Cole clearly identifies Shannondale Farm by name in this comment and implies that
Plaintiff harmed Traci Morgan’s horse by causing the horse to be malnourished.

154.
By stating that more “‘hungry horse photos” would be posted soon, Cole also falsely
implies that Plaintiff regularly abuses and starves its horses.
155.
Cole’s comment contained false and malicious statements against Plaintiff.
156.
On or about October 2, 2013, Cole made a comment on the October 1, 2013, post.
157.
In this comment, she states, Brenda this is the day after Shimmalleft Shannondale Farm
in Alpharetta, GA.”
158.
In this comment, Cole is referring to the picture she posted of a horse on her timeline.
159.
In context with Cole’s previous reference to “hungry horse photos,” Cole clearly and
falsely implies that her horse was boarded at Shannondale Farm and that while her horse was
there, Shannondale mistreated or abused the horse.
160.

Cole’s comment contained false and malicious statements against Plaintiff.
161.
On or about October 2. 1013, Cole makes another comment on the October 1 post.
162.
In this comment, she states, “Who would do something to like this’ [sic] According to
Peta Sociopaths intentionally hurt animals. it is an apparent need for power and control.”

163.
Cole clearly and falsely implies that Plaintiff “intentionally hurt” horses, that Plaintiff
and the Shannons are “‘sociopaths,” and that Plaintiff and the Shannons have a “need for power
and control.”
164.
While Cole does not specifically mention Plaintiff by name in this comment, the people
reading this comment would have reasonably understood it to refer to Plaintiff by context in the
remainder of the comments and the original post itself. See Smith v. Stewart, 291 Ga. App. 86,
92 (2008); Davis v. lvlacon Tel. Pub. Co., 93 Ga. App. 633,634 (1956).
165.
Cole’s comment contained false and malicious statements against Plaintiff.
166.
Cole’s statements in her Facebook post of October 1, 20 13 and all the comments
described above are libel per se because they are injurious to Plaintiff in its trade or profession,
and because Cole’s statements allege that Plaintiff committed the crime of animal abuse. Zarach
v. Atlanta Claitns Ass ‘n, 231 Ga. App. 685, 688 ( 1998).
167.

Because Cole’s statements constitute libel per se, damage is inferred and special damages
not be shown. Snzitlz v. Stewart, 291 Ga. App. 86, 96 (2008).

COUNT IX: LIBEL AGAINST DEFENDANT COLE

168.
On or around October I. 2013, Cole made a separate post on her Facebook wall
(completely separate from the previous postings).

169.
In this post, Cole includes two separate photographs of a horse with the following text:
”My PERSONAL horse dropped close to 350lbs in 30 days at the same location ….. ! !! !”
170.
While Cole does not mention Plaintiff by name, the people reading this post would have
reasonably understood it to refer to Plaintiff by the context in the remainder of the comment
section on this specific post. See Smith v. Stewart, 291 Ga. App. 86, 92 (2008); Davis v. Macon
Tel. Pub. Co., 93 Ga. App. 633,634 (1956).
171.
In this post, Cole is clearly and falsely implying that she boarded her personal horse at
Shannondale Farm, and that while the horse was there, it dropped 350 pounds within thirty days.
172.
Cole’s post contained false and malicious statements against Plaintiff.
173.
Cole’s post is libel per se because it is injurious to Plaintiff in its trade or profession, and
because Cole’s statements allege that Plaintiff committed the crime of animal abuse. Zarach v.
Atlanta Clabns Ass ‘n, 231 Ga. App. 685, 688 ( 1998).
174.
Because Cole’s statements constitute libel per se, damage is inferred and special damages
need not be shown. Snritlz v. Stewart, 291 Ga. App. 86. 96 (2008).

COUNT X: LIBEL AGAINST DEFENDANT COLE

175.
Plaintiff incorporates all preceding paragraphs as if fully set forth herein.

176.
On or about October 22, 2013, Cole “shared” Morgan’s defamatory post, dated October
22, 2013 and described in Paragraphs 100 through 109 herein, to an online Facebook page
entitled Atlanta Equestrians.
177.
When a Facebook member “shares” a post, that post is re-published on another page.
That post is then viewable to an entirely new audience.
178.
The Atlanta Equestrians page has 95 members as of the date of filing this Complaint.
Most or all of the members are active in the equestrian community in Atlanta.
179.
When Cole shared Morgan’s post, all members of the Atlanta Equestrians group page
would have seen the post in their “news feed.” This news feed is the home page that is shown
when a member logs in to Facebook. It contains updates from the member’s Facebook friends
and any groups to which that member belongs.
180.
When Cole re-published Morgan’s October 22, 2013 post, Cole intended to harass,
embarrass, and defame Plaintiff.
181.
Cole’s post contained false and malicious statements against Plaintiff.

182.
Cole’s post is libel per se because it is injurious to Plaintiff in its trade or profession, and
because Cole’s statements allege that Plaintiff committed the crime of animal abuse. Zarach v.

Atlanta Claims Ass ‘n, 231 Ga. App. 685, 688 ( 1998).
183.
Because Cole’s statements constitute libel per se, damage is inferred and special damages
need not be shown. Smith v. Stewart, 291 Ga. App. 86, 96 (2008).

COUNT XI: LIBEL AGAINST DEFENDANT COLE

184.
Plaintiff incorporates all preceding paragraphs as if fully set forth herein.
185.

On or about October 22, 2013, Cole also “shared” Morgan’s defamatory post, dated
October 22, 2013, and described in Paragraphs 100 through 109 herein, to a different online
Facebook page entitled Alpharetta Equestrians.
186.
The Alpharetta Equestrians page has 221 members as of the date of filing this Complaint.
Most or all of the members are active in the equestrian community in Atlanta.
187.
When Cole shared Morgan’s post, all members of the Alpharetta Equestrians group page
would have seen the post in their “news feed.”
188.

When Cole re-published Morgan’s October 22, 2013, post Cole intended to harass,
embarrass, and defame Plaintiff.
189.
Cole’s post contained false and malicious statements against Plaintiff.
190.
Cole’s post is libel per se because it is injurious to Plaintiff in its trade or profession, and
because Cole’s statements allege that Plaintiff committed the crime of animal abuse. Zarach v.
Atlanta Clailns Ass ‘n, 231 Ga. App. 685, 688 ( 1998).
191.
Because Cole’s statements constitute libel per se, damage is inferred and special damages
need not be shown. Smith v. Stewart. 291 Ga. App. 86, 96 (2008).
COUNTY XII: LIBEL AGAINST DEFENDANT COLE
192.
Plaintiff incorporates all preceding paragraphs as if fully set forth herein.

193.
On or about October 23, 2013, Cole “shared” a different defamatory post from Morgan’s
Facebook profile, dated October 23, 2013, and described in Paragraphs 110 through 126 herein,
on the Atlanta Equestrians group Facebook page.
194.
When Cole shared Morgan’s post, all members of the Atlanta Equestrians group page
would have seen the post in their “news feed.”

195.

When Cole re-published Morgan’s October 23, 2013, post, Cole intended to harass,
embarrass, and defame Plaintiff.
196.
Cole’s post contained false and malicious statements against Plaintiff.

197.
Cole’s post is libel per se because it is injurious to Plaintiff in its trade or profession, and
because Cole’s statements allege that Plaintiff committed the crime of animal abuse. Zarach v.
Atlanta Claims Ass’n, 231 Ga. App. 685, 688 ( 1998).
198.
Because Cole’s statements constitute libel per se, damage is inferred and special damages
need not be shown. S1nith v. Stewart, 291 Ga. App. 86, 96 (2008).

COUNT XIII: LIBEL AGAINST DEFENDANT COLE

199.
Plaintiff incorporates all preceding paragraphs as if fully set forth herein.
200.

On or about October 23, 2013, Cole again shared the defamatory post from Morgan’s
Facebook profile, dated October 23, 2013, and described in Paragraphs 110 through 126 herein.
201.
Cole shared this post on the Alpharetta Equestrians group Facebook page.
202.
When Cole shared Morgan’s post, all members of the Alpharetta Equestrians group page
would have seen the post in their “news feed.”

203.
When Cole re-published Morgan’ s October 23, 2013, post. Cole intended to harass,
embarrass. and defame Plaintiff.
204.
Cole’s post contained false and malicious statements against Plaintiff.
205.
Cole’s post is libel per se because it is injurious to Plaintiff in its trade or profession, and
because Cole’s statements allege that Plaintiff committed the crime of animal abuse. Zarach v.
Atlanta Claims Ass ‘n, 231 Ga. App. 685, 688 ( 1998).
206.
Because Cole’s statements constitute libel per se, damage is inferred and special damages
need not be shown. S1nith v. Stewart, 291 Ga. App. 86, 96 (2008).

 

COUNT XIV: TEMPORARY AND PERMANENT INJUNCTION AGAINST DEFENDANTS MORGAN
AND COLE

207.

Plaintiff incorporates all preceding paragraphs as if fully incorporated herein.
208.
Defendants have communicated and published defamatory comments about Plaintiff on
numerous occasions. These defamatory statements are damaging to Plaintiffs business and
reputation in the community.
209.
By letters dated October 18, 2013, Plaintiff has provided notice and demand for
Defendants to cease and desist their defamatory conduct. See Ex. A and B.
210.
Defendants have continued to post defamatory conduct after receiving notice, and/or they
have refused to remove publications of this defamatory conduct and issue a retraction.
211.

Although sufficient time has elapsed in which Defendants could issue retractions and
remedy the defamation. they have refused to do so.

212.
Unless Defendants are immediately restrained from publishing or communicating
defamatory statements against Plaintiff, they will continue to do so. Additionally, Defendants
have made it clear that they intend to leave their defamatory posts available on Facebook for
anyone to see.
213.
As long as these posts remain available, and as long as Defendants continue to make
defamatory statements about Plaintiff, Plaintiff will suffer immediate and irreparable injury.
214.
The threatened injuries to Plaintiff outweigh any threatened harm Defendants may incur
by an injunction.
215.
Granting an injunction will not disserve the public interest.

COUNT XV: ATTORNEY’S FEES AND EXPENSES OF LITIGATION UNDER O.C.G.A. § 13-6-11
AGAINST DEFENDANTS COLE AND MORGAN

216.
Plaintiff incorporates all preceding paragraphs as if fully incorporated herein.
217.
By letter dated October 18. 2013, and by other previous correspondence with Morgan’s
attorney. Plaintiff notified Defendant Morgan that her conduct was defamatory. See Ex. A.
218.
By the same letter. Plaintiff also made demand upon Morgan to cease and desist all
defamatory conduct. to withdraw any defamatory publications, and to make a retraction of all
defamatory publications. See Ex. A.
219.
Plaintiff also made demand upon Defendant Cole to cease and desist all defamatory
conduct, to withdraw any defamatory publications, and to make a retraction of all defamatory
publications. This demand was made by letter dated October 18, 2013. See Ex. B.
220.
Morgan has not removed any of the publications at issue.
221.
The moderator of one Facebook group has removed some of Cole’s photographs. Cole
has also removed certain photos in her posts. However, Cole has not removed all text and all
photos, and she has not issued any retractions on any of the Facebook pages to which she

published defamatory content.
222.
Neither Cole nor Morgan has issued a retraction.
223.
Both Cole and Morgan continued to make defamatory publications and statements, even
after receiving the cease and desist letters from Plaintiff.
224.
Defendants have acted in bad faith, been stubbornly litigious, and have caused Plaintiff unnecessary

trouble and expense.Plaintiff is therefore entitled to an award of attorney’s fees and
expenses of litigation pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 13-6-11.

 

COUNT XVI: PUNITIVE DAMAGES

225.
Plaintiff incorporates all preceding paragraphs as if fully restated herein.

226.
By letters dated October 18, 20 13, Plaintiff requested a retraction in writing from both
Defendants Cole and Morgan. See Ex. A and Ex. 8; see also O.C.G.A. § 51-5-11.
227.
This lawsuit was filed more than seven (7) days after Plaintiff requested the retractions in
writing. See O.C.G.A. § 51-5-11.
228.
Defendants’ continuous defamation of Plaintiff shows “‘willful misconduct, malice, fraud.
wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of
conscious indifference to consequences.” O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1.
229.
Plaintiff is entitled to punitive damages for Defendants’ tortious conduct.

WHEREFORE, Plaintiff prays for the following in judgment against Defendants:
l. That this Court grant Judgment to Plaintiff in an amount to be determined at trial for
slander and libel against Defendant Morgan;
2. That this Court grant Judgment to Plaintiff in an amount to be determined at trial for
slander and libel against Defendant Cole.
3. That this Court enter temporary and permanent injunctions against Defendants preventing
thern from making additional defamatory statements and publications against Plaintiff
and requiring Defendants to issue a retraction of previous statements and publications;
4. That this Court grant Judgment to Plaintiff in an amount to be determined at trial for
punitive damages against both Defendants Cole and Morgan;
5. That Plaintiff recover its expenses of litigation and attorney’s fees due to Defendants’
actions in causing Plaintiff unnecessary trouble and expenses; and
6. Any and all other such relief as this Court shall find proper.

 

Respectfully submitted this 4th of December, 2013.

MILES PATTERSON
HANSFORD TALLANT, LLC
Attorneys for Plaintiff

 

View Complaint & Attachments 

View Defendant Cole Answers & Counterclaim

View Defendant Morgan Answers & Counterclaim 

 

January 2015

Parties resolved dispute at mediation